House Democrats Counter with Alternate Reform Bill

April 11, 2002 ( - While US House of Representatives considers the Republican-based Pension Security Advice Act, Democratic House leaders stated they would file an alternative bill.

Representative George Miller (D-California), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, charged that the Republican version of the bill, sponsored by Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio) weakens existing employee 401(k) protections.

Miller and Representative Charles Rangel (D-New York) announced that they would file the Employee Pension Freedom Act of 2002.

“The bill we will offer today follows through on the advice of the President, which is that what is good for the captain should be good for sailor too,” Miller said in a statement. “Our bill provides employees the same pension rights as executives.  It provides employees control over their own investments.  And it protects employees from the kinds of executive abuses we saw in the Enron case.”

Miller Defends his Bill

Miller said the bill put forward by Rangel and himself:

  • allows employees to better control their pension investments and have a voice on pension committees,
  • requires companies to notify employees when executives sell large blocks of company stock,
  • protects investors against conflict of interest when getting investment advice,
  • equally treats pension plans covering managers with those covering employees, and
  • imposes tougher company misconduct penalties

Republicans Fight Back

Meanwhile, Republican leaders kept up the pressure for members to support the Republican pension reform bill.

In a statement to House members also released to the press, Boehner and Representative Sam Johnson (R-Texas), chairman of the House Employer-Employee Relations Subcommittee, claimed that the Miller-Rangel proposal:

  • makes it easier for participants to sue over losses sparked by ERISA violations – labeling the Democratic version “a boon to trial lawyers”,
  • doesn’t ease the way for plan sponsors to offer investment advice – what Boehner and Johnson labeled “the most important pension protection of all”,
  • improperly requires the appointment of an employee representative on defined contribution plan trustee committees, and
  • improperly requires defined contribution plan fiduciaries to have 401(k) insurance